About the Book
Title: Witches, Voids and Other Sanity Suckers
Author: Kara Thorpe
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Alpha of the only Shifter pack in Houston, Rick Haskell has his hands full. When the Mage of New Orleans calls for a favor – a favor that pays $400,000 – Rick can’t refuse. Even if that favor means adopting the Mage’s daughter into his ragtag pack. Az Vardan is beautiful, smart, and takes frequent vacations from sanity. Before Rick can learn how to handle the blonde kiss-and-run firecracker, wolfsbane appears in the local coven’s garden, witches mysteriously die in police custody, and a rash of centaur murders rocks Houston’s Paranormal Community. Az’s knowledge of magic may be all that saves Rick’s pack when a new, powerful threat moves in to take over his city.
First person, present tense
Warning: language, violence, and irreverence (and Oxford commas)
Kara Thorpe started writing as a distraction in French class and never stopped (don’t ask her to conjugate many verbs). Born and raised under the South Texas sun, she spends her days navigating Houston traffic and the exciting world of production planning. Nights are for creating character-driven romances and wrangling a stubborn Siamese. Look for Chai’s cameo in each story.
It takes an embarrassing amount of time to realize she's talking to me. It's the first time she's used my name - the one I answer to, at least - and she sounds almost reasonable. Normal.
"Can we keep this a secret?"
Seeing as this could refer to anything her cracked brain could come up with, I'm not keen on just blindly agreeing. "Keep what a secret?"
She waves a hand at herself. "Me."
"Unless you have an invisibility cloak stashed away somewhere, sweetheart, that's pretty damn unlikely."
"Are you always this dense? You should come with a foghorn."
Okay. Forget tossing her in the bed of the truck. I'm going to lock her in the toolbox. "You're going to have to be more specific. I'm not fluent in crazy."
"Coulda fooled me." She crosses her arms over her chest and turns her head to stare out the passenger window. Thanks to several layers of Greta's makeup, Astraea no longer looks like a human punching bag. I remember where every dark mark is hidden.
She falls silent again. I would rejoice, but there's a tension in the truck that makes my skin itch. "Out with it."
"Voids are rare. Usually they're a karmic bitch slap to someone trying to mess with the rules of magic. People - witches - don't usually react kindly when faced with a void." She scowls at her reflection. "Act as if all we do is suck up magic and turn them into bitter hags. Like I want all that nasty magic boiling inside me. Oh, puh-lease. I don’t even like being able to see the future. It makes my eyeballs hurt."
"Won't they be able to sense you? Anders could."
"Matthias isn't a witch," she says, as if that explains everything.
It explains exactly nothing. I don't have time to wrestle answers out of her, either. We're at the coven headquarters, and Sally Caplinger is waiting for us on the front porch. Princess unbuckles her seatbelt with a quiet click. I want to grab her before she can bolt out of the truck, but this is the calmest she's been since the previous night. I don't want to add any magic to her already overloaded system.
"Keep your mouth shut in there. Stick to me like glue. Don't touch anything. In fact, keep your hands in your pockets."
"I'm not three."
"Coulda fooled me."
The glare she sends my way makes me fear becoming a human torch. Fortunately, the stench of burnt hair doesn't fill the truck. Maybe sane-Princess has a little self-control after all.
"Grab the shovel, Princess."
"You get the shovel. I need the salt."
Contradicting my orders while still on probation is not a good move. She’s new, though, so I don’t snarl. Much. "Grab. The. Damn. Shovel."
Fortunately, for her, I can't make out what she mutters under her breath. She grabs the shovel as well as the salt and scurries back like a good little pack member. The gate leading to the rear of the house is wooden. Not very secure. I'm just pissed enough at Sally to want to kick it in.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Az says seconds before the sole of my boot makes contact with Sally's crappy gate.
She drops to her knees next to me and dips her right hand into the Ziploc bag of salt. "Because your foot'll fall off." She stares up at me with an expression that clearly indicates she thinks I'm an idiot. "Sally's a witch. Perimeter boundaries are warded."
Does she think this is my first run-in with witches? "I can handle wards."
"You can handle puny wards put up by amateurs with an all-purpose spell and a bit of sage. This is a professional warding. Around the Coven's garden. Trust me, it'll turn your manly hairy calf into ash."
It grates, but she's the magic expert. Time for her to start proving she's worth all the trouble. "Fine, but if you burn your hand off, don't come crying to me."
I catch a quick eye roll as she turns back to the gate. Oh, sweetheart, tomorrow morning is going to be so painful for you. I was going to have her jog with Ike and Hank, but it looks like she'll be joining Greta's morning run.
Az presses a salt-coated palm against the gate. "Don't try this on your own. The salt just protects my skin. I have to drain the magic out of the ward."
Aw hell. Just when I got the non-psycho version, too. "How far back is this going to set you?"
"Shouldn't set me back at all, Rick. My defenses are the best. When they're up, that is." She shrugs and closes her eyes. The gate glows a bright orange for a moment before returning to normal. "Plus, I have pretty deep reserves. This is nothing."
She rises and shakes the salt off her hand. There are a few blisters on the tips of her fingers, but she doesn't complain. Good. You have to be tough to keep up with the pack. She steps back and bows dramatically. "You may proceed with the destruction of private property."
I’m not alone in the room. Every muscle in my body tenses, ready for action, while my brain rushes to catch up with my instincts. There is no one on the bed. There is something large on the normally bare nightstand on the other side of the bed. The faint aroma of magnolias fills my lungs with every breath.
“Az,” I groan, rolling over onto my side.
The lamp on that side of the room clicks on. Az is cross-legged on the square nightstand. It’s a damn good thing I don’t buy rickety furniture or else her scrawny ass would be on the floor.
“What are you doing here?”
She tosses the heavy book on the bed and stretches her arms up over her head. When she speaks, her tone is frosty. “Jose sleep licks.”
“Yeah, he does.” Now that I can see her properly, I note that her hair has that distinct just-groomed-by-a-cat look to it.
Her eyes narrow. “Someone could have warned me.”
“Yeah, someone probably could have. Why are you in here, Az?”
She averts her gaze. Color spreads across her cheeks. “You’re peaceful. You spend so much time protecting other people, that maybe I think you need someone to watch over you.” She chuckles softly, twists her fingers together. “I like you.”
Her head snaps up. Irritation flashes across her face. “Why not?”
“I’m a Shifter.” Most normal people don’t like Shifters. Witches, warlocks, Mages and other magic users downright hate us. We’re a little too close to wild animals for anyone’s peace of mind. She shouldn’t be comfortable around me.
“You’re a good person. You care for your pack. You help people.” Az rakes her fingers through her hair. “You took in someone you had every right to walk away from. Especially since, to you, I’m like a witch.”